Arguments are inevitable in any relationship. We argue with our parents, siblings, friends and significant others. It seems like at some point we learn to argue and then we never forget how to do it.
We also argue in the workplace.
Even with remote working we are still likely to argue with our coworkers.
The reason often comes down to having different goals. That can seem off in a work setting. Isn’t everyone trying to achieve the same success at their place of work? Well, it’s not always the same. You may have one goal for the organization and for yourself. Another person may have different goals. And even if the goal is the same, as set from a manager perhaps, you may have different ideas of how to achieve it, which is a variation of the goal.
Imagine a football team. The goal is to win the Super Bowl. But players often have different goals of how to achieve it. Usually with themselves as the focal point of the winning team. See: Walter Payton after winning the Super Bowl.
How can you use arguments in a positive way at work?
Here are a few thoughts…
1. Take It Private
Sometimes you’re in a group setting when an argument escalates. You might be in a meeting discussing strategy or something similar. You and another person start arguing. Perhaps one or both of you begins raising your voice.
Especially if you’re passionate about how something is going to be done.
It’s best to try and reign in the emotion in that moment. You can continue discussing and finish the meeting. But try to meet up with the person and discuss the situation in private. You don’t want others concerned for team morale or things like that because of a heated argument.
2. Discuss Goals Respectfully
In private, discuss your goals with the person. Try to see where you’re align and don’t align on things. Really try to listen and understand what the other person is feeling and how they want to approach the situation.
It’s usually in both of your interests to come to some agreement. Your higher ups likely don’t want you both feuding or disagreeing on everything. That’s not good for the organization and ultimately it won’t be for you and the other person either.
You can even do this preemptively. If you’re working with a new person on a project schedule time to meet with them and discuss your goals. Try to get ahead of arguments.
3. Be Specific About Details
Try not to use generals when you’re arguing or discussing your goals with someone. And try to avoid using “all-in” words like always, everyone, etc. It’s usually not always the case and it’s usually not everyone that is or isn’t doing something.
Take time to consider your own goals before the discussion too. This can help shore up the details so you’re confident in expressing yourself.
4. Offer To Help Each Other
Usually you can figure out common ground with arguments. You likely won’t ever share the exact same goals. But you can usually find a solution that is good for both of you. And you can even likely offer to help each other. It’s a way to work together for the good of both. And for the organization.
Say you both want a promotion. You’re working on a project. If it goes well you know that one of the two of you will likely get the promotion.
Help each other out. Worst case is you give each other the odds of 50/50. And the person that doesn’t get the promotion looks good and can maybe get a raise or perhaps find a similar promotion at another company.
Arguments will always happen. They’re not always a bad thing. But they can turn ugly and destructive for all involved including the observers. You want to try to use them for the positive. Turn them into constructive conversations. See if you’re able to work with the other person(s) to figure out why you have differing thoughts. It could be that you have different goals.
Try to find a solution that benefits you both.